Geraint Thomas says he feels no pressure to prove his Tour de France victory wasn’t a fluke.
The Team Ineos rider starts the 2019 edition as reigning champion and overall favourite after an emphatic but surprising victory last season.
Welshman Thomas has had a turbulent opening half of the season as he prepared for his Tour defence but was confident on the eve of the race, which starts on Saturday (July 6) in Brussels.
The 33-year-old, speaking with BBC 5 Live’s podcast Bespoke, said: “I don’t feel pressure to prove that my win wasn’t a fluke, or whatever negative angle people want to take from it.
“It’s actually less pressure. If a rider hasn’t quite fulfilled their potential in Grand Tours, they might be too eager to attack too soon or too much, to get too emotional, but I think I can be more chilled, more calculated.”
Team Ineos have been forced to rethink their Tour de France 2019 strategy in recent weeks, after four-time winner Chris Froome suffered devastating injuries in a crash at the Critérium du Dauphiné last month.
Froome’s absence from the Tour leave the Ineos leadership open to Thomas, who will be supported by Colombian superstar Egan Bernal.
But Thomas has suffered his own setbacks this year, most recently crashing out of the Tour de Suisse, pulling out of Tirreno-Adriatico due to stomach problems and being forced to abandon a training camp due to bad weather.
>>> Watch out for these debutants at the Tour de France 2019
Despite the hitches, Thomas was upbeat just days out from the biggest race of the year: “I’ve been super-motivated and pushing to try to win it again, because it was an amazing feeling winning last year and I want to experience that again.
On the potential shared leadership with the bookmakers’ favourite Bernal, Thomas said Team Ineos have two cards to play with the youngster a strong support rider if he feels capable of the win.